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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ten Healthful Foods, Starting with Canned Pumpkin

The February 13-15, 2009, USA Weekend magazine included this list of "10 healthful foods for cents a serving:"
• Canned pumpkin
• Beets
• Spinach
• Kiwi
• Sweet potatoes
• Frozen berries
• Canned tuna or salmon
• Oranges
• Yogurt
• Beans

No real surprises here, but I wonder how many people reading this brief item might have passed it by. Beets, spinach and beans seem to carry a really poor reputation among many people, and calling frozen berries starting at more than $3 a pound something that is only "cents per serving" may have turned others away as well.

Part of the problem of course was that there wasn't enough space to include more than the briefest of suggestions on how to use these foods in a way that would stretch the costliest among them and "hide" the strong flavors of some of the others.

In the next several days, I am going to try to post at least one suggestion for each of these foods to help get people started on incorporating these ten foods into their meals. Maybe after this list is done, I can start on one of the other similar compilations touted in news articles and features on the net and in print.

First, the pumpkin.

There are lots of recipes for pumpkin soup around the internet I have not yet tried but I do have a way to include pumpkin in your meals without the added sweetness of a dessert.

"Pumpkin Puddles"
Lay a piece of waxed paper, about a foot or so square, on a cookie sheet. Now open a can of pumpkin. Be sure you are using plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling!

With a large spoon, drop mounds of the pumpkin on the waxed paper, rounding them into neat little piles. These should each be about 1 to 2 tablespoons in size, but you don't have to worry about exact measurements. Put the pumpkin in the freezer until frozen solid. Then, keeping the waxed paper wrapped around them for extra protection, transfer the "puddles" to a zippered freezer bag and return to the freezer.

Now, every time you make anything with a tomato base—chili, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, soup, even lasagna--stir in one of the pumpkin "puddles." The result will not have a "pumpkin-y" taste, but you will notice an added depth of flavor, and you will have measurably increased the nutritive value of your dish as well.

If you prepare your own pumpkin, you can take this same approach, but be sure the pumpkin is well pureed so that it blends completely into the final recipe.

Finally, of course, I really can't talk about pumpkin without including some dessert, so here is a "pudding" that is really a cake. It is so dense and rich it can be served in quite small slices or squares, moderating the final calorie count. As an added benefit, the pumpkin, walnuts, and dates provide more than the usual nutrition in such a great dessert....and, the unusual method for combining the ingredients makes it very quick and easy to prepare.


Pumpkin Date Pudding

1 2/3 c flour
1 1/3 c sugar
1 c cooked or canned pumpkin
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1/2 c butter
1/3 c water
1 t soda
1 egg
1 c chopped dates
1/2 c chopped walnuts
Combine butter, water, pumpkin, and dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Add the egg and chopped dates and beat for 2 more minutes. Fold in nuts and pour into a greased 6 1/2 cup mold or 9 inch square pan. bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or drizzle a thin powdered sugar glaze over the top.

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